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Review: Purity Ring, 'Another Eternity'

Another Eternity
Courtesy of the artist
Another Eternity

When Purity Ring released its debut album Shrines back in 2012, it came bundled with some of the most ill-defined genre signifiers imaginable, from chillwave to the band's self-deployed "future pop" to the even-less-meaningful "witch house." Now that the Edmonton duo is back with a follow-up, it's time to call it what it is: Like its predecessor, Another Eternity dispenses some of the most ingratiating electro-pop around, simple as that.

Still, these are no mere trifles. Corin Roddick lets Purity Ring's arrangements wobble between hands-to-the-heavens grandiosity and woozy, skittering atmospherics (aided by beats that owe much to hip-hop), while singer Megan James commands an ever-larger share of the spotlight. Roddick knows when to hang back and let James' formidable singing — which, as ever, recalls a darker and more mysterious incarnation of The Sundays' Harriet Wheeler — storm to the forefront of these 10 songs. The AutoTune that popped up across Shrines is applied more judiciously here, most notably in "Repetition," but always for the purpose of dramatic impact.

Though infused with the confidence of a band that's been touring for years, Another Eternity sounds more like an extension of Shrines than a radical evolution: It once again mines the built-in tension between its many sources of effervescence (fizzy electronics, James herself) and the darker shading in its words and backgrounds. But where's the harm in exploring and perfecting the intricacies of a formula that works this well?

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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